We are now in the middle of week 9 of our #7:14 prayer initiative. This week, our prayer focus is on praying for our Neighbors.
You remember those people, they live next door to you, maybe leave their trash cans out too long, their kids ride their bikes through your grass, play their music too loud, ____________ (whatever your pet peeve is). We can probably list off a number of things about our neighbors that irks our lives, but I wonder if we know their story? I wonder if we know the things that they care about? I wonder if we even know their names?…..
We get so caught up in our schedules, our families, our jobs, our lives that we can rarely take time for others. Our neighbors are more like strangers to us! I am guilty of this, I pull in my garage, shut the door and say goodbye to the rest of the world. Somehow it has become a hassle when someone even knocks on my door. Surely, this is not how God has called us to live. So we all need to ask ourselves (me included!), what are we going to do to break this cycle that is solely focused on ourselves, and begin to think about how we can be a blessing to our neighbors?
God has placed our neighbors in our lives, and it is not an accident – it is for a purpose. Reflect on our focusing text this week which comes from Matthew 5:14-16:
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
But in order for “our light to shine” we must first get to know them, and also let them get to know us. Developing relationships always involves some sort of risk, isn’t necessarily easy and can at times even be messy. But the only way our neighbors are going to move beyond being strangers is to take a risk, bless their lives, hear their stories and share yours.
Sharing your story is an essential aspect of loving our neighbors. Sharing our faith can feel awkward at times, and most of us get freaked out by the idea of evangelism. So we need to completely reframe our concept of evangelism if we are going to do it well. Our call isn’t to share with them that they “are sinners in the hands of an angry God.” That might have worked in Jonathan Edwards day, but our culture is different. No, our call is to share with them how Jesus has transformed our lives while also communicating His extravagant love for theirs. Here are a couple of things that have helped me learn to share my faith with another person.
1) Becoming Comfortable in Your Own Skin
Strangely enough, caring for our neighbors starts with our hearts first. We need to learn to be comfortable in our own skin. What I mean is that we need to have our identity in Christ rooted in our hearts. We need to develop a “God confidence” in who we are in Christ. We need to allow our faith to develop in such a way that spiritual conversations do not cause us to hyperventilate but naturally flow out of who we are: a follower of Jesus. We need to know in our bones that he has transformed our lives with his goodness. When we experience Jesus in this light, it becomes very natural to speak good things about him. (Shameless plug: Our Alpha Course will help you develop this. Next session kicks off Monday, October 27th 6:30pm in the WRCC Discovery Room.)
“God Confidence” is not “God Arrogance.” We get a lot further with people when we lead with our weakness instead of presenting a false picture of ourselves as someone who has it all together. And frankly, they already know that you don’t have it all together. As D.T. Niles wisely said,“Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.” So it’s from our need that we share our stories of how God rescued us and transformed our lives.
2) Your Neighbor is Part of God’s Good Creation; God Has a Hope and a Future for Them
We need to capture a fresh vision for the inherent worth of each person who walks the earth. They (we) are his children, created in his image, for his purpose and for his glory. Genesis 2:7: “Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” Here is a simple rule of thumb: If God touched it, it is good. In this text, we see that God’s breath and life imparts dignity and bestows worth. A good definition for dignity is our inherent value and worth as human beings; everyone is born with it.
Another way of thinking about this is that each person you come across, if you look closely, has the fingerprints of God on him or her. He has shaped and formed you and me and everyone we meet. So instead of disgracing the work that God has done, we extend grace and love that person, because they are worthy to receive love. So, do we primarily see others as sinners or as God’s children who simply need to be awakened to a life committed to Jesus’s message and mission?
3) You Have Been Sent Into the World
Simply put, God has called us to be his change agents in this world. He has done this work in your life, yes, to bless you, but just as important, so that you would be a blessing to others. So we need to move beyond thinking about this life of faith as simply waiting around “to get to heaven” and reimagine the ways God is wanting to use us to see his Kingdom come through your life. Your neighbors matter to God, therefore they must matter to you.
So pray this week for your neighbors, ask for God to give you opportunities to connect, care and bless their lives. I have no doubt that He will answer each and everyone of those prayers.
God has called his people to pray! Our families, communities, and world are in need of healing and God makes a conditional promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that we want to live out. God is calling us as his people to humble ourselves, pray, seek his face and turn from our wicked ways. Please join us by:
- Praying daily at 7:14 a.m. & 7:14 p.m.
- Fasting one time per week
- Quieting your heart 10 minutes before service to pray
- Joining us for corporate prayer at the church, Saturday 7:14 p.m. & Sunday 7:14 a.m.